De­light­ful tale echo­ing Dick­en­sian re­demp­tion has Bill Mur­ray in ri­otous form

Bray People - - ENTERTAINMENT -

ST VINCENT (12A)

A mod­ern-day Scrooge is moved by the plight of a young boy in Theodore Melfi’s touch­ing and fre­quently up­roar­i­ous com­edy.

There are nei­ther jin­gling bells nor ghostly vis­i­ta­tions in St Vincent–the only spir­its are swigged from a bot­tle–but Dick­ens’ un­der­ly­ing theme of the re­demp­tion of the hu­man spirit rings true in this valen­tine to Bill Mur­ray.

The Os­car-nom­i­nated star of Ghost­busters, Ground­hog Day and Lost In Trans­la­tion is in ri­otous form in Melfi’s de­light­ful film, de­ploy­ing split-sec­ond comic tim­ing to dev­as­tat­ing ef­fect as he re­veals a beat­ing heart of gold be­neath the sham­bolic ap­pear­ance of his penny-pinch­ing cur­mud­geon.

His iras­ci­ble old coot might gam­ble, smoke and drink to ex­cess, and seek phys­i­cal plea­sure in the company of a heav­ily preg­nant Rus­sian pros­ti­tute, but we fall head over heels for Mur­ray’s vir­tu­oso por­trayal and it’s a love af­fair that en­dures the film’s oc­ca­sional lull or sloppy char­ac­ter­i­sa­tion.

New­comer Jae­den Lieber­her is mag­nif­i­cent as the spir­ited tyke, whose in­no­cence and un­wa­ver­ing faith pro­vide a bea­con of hope for the self-de­struc­tive codger to stum­ble back into the land of the liv­ing.

Writer-di­rec­tor Melfi wrings us dry of laugh­ter and tears in the process.

Vincent (Mur­ray) lives in a ram­shackle house in Brook­lyn with a pet cat and dreams of the past.

He owes a small for­tune to bookie Zucko (Ter­rence Howard), who is re­luc­tantly threat­en­ing to smash Vincent’s kneecaps un­less for­tunes change.

Lady Luck smiles on the sex­a­ge­nar­ian loner when strug­gling sin­gle mother Mag­gie (Melissa McCarthy) and her son Oliver (Lieber­her) move in next door and Vincent ex­ploits Mag­gie to be­come the lad’s babysit­ter. ‘He’s sort of cool, in a grouchy sort of way,’ Oliver as­sures his mother about his new guardian.

While Mag­gie works long hours to keep a roof over their head, Vincent in­tro­duces Oliver to horse rac­ing, his feisty Rus­sian com­pan­ion-for-money Daka (Naomi Watts) and an el­derly woman with Alzheimer’s called Sandy (Donna Mitchell), who he vis­its at an ex­pen­sive nurs­ing home.

When Vincent’s school­teacher Brother Ger­aghty (Chris O’Dowd) asks his im­pres­sion­able charges to de­liver a ver­bal re­port on some­one they con­sider a 21st-cen­tury saint, Oliver knows ex­actly who he wants to canon­ise.

St Vincent is an­chored by Mur­ray’s award-wor­thy per­for­mance, but sup­port­ing cast is equally im­pres­sive, of­ten in un­der­writ­ten roles.

McCarthy aban­dons her usual schtick to em­body a mother in cri­sis and Watts plies a thick cod-east­ern Euro­pean ac­cent as the work­ing girl look­ing for a break.

O’Dowd scene-steals with aplomb as a holy man with heav­enly quips: ‘I’m a Catholic, which is the best re­li­gion be­cause we have the most rules.’

Aided by a lead­ing man in rude health, writer-di­rec­tor Melfi doesn’t slather on the sen­ti­men­tal­ity too thick as he ex­poses glim­mers of hope for each dys­func­tional character and en­cour­ages them to walk to­wards the light com­edy.

RAT­ING: 8/10

Bill Mur­rAy in St VinCent

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